Gender-Based Funds – ethical or prejudiced?

  • Not if the fund is focused on developing women (or any other gender)
  • If it leads to the “un-development” of other genders, then it is prejudiced

Gender-based funds are group investments from which pooled money is spent to uplift and better one specific gender. I.e. a fund to support women empowerment in East Africa through education and training. But is this type of fund ethical? How can a fund who supports only one gender be considered ethical?

Gender-based funds are necessary and important to uplift groups of people who have been previously disadvantaged/marginalised based on gender. I believe that the distinction lies in whether the fund lends itself to the upliftment of women, for example, at the detriment of other genders. If so, then the fund is prejudiced and not ethical.  If the fund is providing an equity platform to support a disadvantaged group of people, then it is in fact ethical.  For example, the United Nations has a gender based fund called the FGE (Fund for Gender Equality) where they aim to “to support national, women-led civil society organizations in achieving women’s economic and political empowerment and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” – http://www.unwomen.org/en/trust-funds/fund-for-gender-equality

Here is a great image to explain the difference between equity and equality:

Image reference: https://laout.org/community-equity-event/

The problem is nuanced – how can we tell when a fund is actually ethical? We need to look at the objectives and the results. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Due to the nature of empowerment and upliftment, there may be a time in the future where gender-based funds are unnecessary due to the betterment they have provided for women. This is to say that perhaps one day gender-based policies, after serving their purpose, may become prejudiced as all the genders will be on an equal standing and have equality of opportunities. In this case a sunset clause may need to be included in the fund’s mandate which would state that gender-based funds can function until such a time that there is equality amongst the genders.

While it might make sense that a sunset clause should apply once gender equality had been achieved, a more vexing question relates to how one would establish if equality had actually been achieved.

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